By Pat Maurer
After a sometimes heated debate on lease income at the Clare Municipal Airport February 18, the City Commission unanimously approved the property lease transfer they denied at the February 4 meeting.
At the last meeting, the Clare City Commission asked Airport Manager Dick Acker, who was not at the meeting, to report on rates [lease rates] charged at surrounding and similarly sized airports to determine whether a rate adjustment should be applied.
The matter came up when the Commission was asked to approve the renewal leases on hangars located on Lots 307 and 308, which were recently purchased by North Ten LLC. The hangars were previously owned by Richard Bolle and the previous lease agreements on the property the hangars are built on contain language providing for the renewal.
A motion to approve renewal of the lease agreements was voted down by the board until the report could be made at the next meeting.
Commissioner Tom Koch objected to the low lease rate charged to hangar owners. He said he thought when a hangar was sold; the commission would have the option to raise the property lease rate.
Hibl explained that although the hangars were sold, the property lease still belonged to the original owner, Richard Bolle and that the lease amount, $270.00 annually, was for ten years. “That lease is still valid,” Hibl said.
Hibl said neither he nor Airport Manager Dick Acker liked the current lease situation at the airport. “I would prefer that the city owned all of the hangars,” he said, “This is not a good way to do it but this is what we inherited.” Hibl said only a handful of airports in the state had a situation where hangars are built on leased property and not owned by the airport. “We are unique,” he said.
Koch said, “Why did we even have this brought up? I was under the impression that when there was a new owner, the lease ended.”
Hibl said the commission does have the option to “say no” to a lease transfer request, but that “We prefer that the property (hangar) owner and the lease remain the same person.”
Koch replied, “It would be wise if we didn’t have any more ten year leases.” He said he felt plane owners had the “wherewithal” to pay more. “I don’t agree with giving stuff away. It’s just like being in line at the grocery behind someone with an EBT (Bridge) card. It is just distasteful.”
Acker reminded the board that the leases do increase with the cost of living. He said, “I built my hangar 15 years ago and it cost me $30,000 of my own money. I built it here because I had faith that my [property] lease would last more than one year. Otherwise I would have gone to Mt. Pleasant and you wouldn’t have the fuel sales, the flight business, or me as Airport Manager. The point is if you want that airport to get bigger and better…”
Koch replied, “Did I say that? Are we in the airport business or the city of Clare?”
Acker said, “You have an airport that is a benefit to the community. Are you trying to stifle growth at the airport?”
Koch replied, “By your own admission it isn’t paying for itself. We have an airport that is syphoning money from the general fund. We never should have gotten in the situation where we’re giving away for cheap.” He continued I know Dick is doing a good job, I just think we should work at making it pay for itself.”
Hibl replied, “We will be working towards that whenever we can.” Acker said that could be accomplished if the city owned five more hangars and rented them out.
Commissioner Jean McConnell made a motion to rescind the motion to deny the lease transfer made at the February 8 meeting. It was approved unanimously. A motion to approve the transfer of the lot lease to the new hangar owners was also approved unanimously.
In other matters February 18:
*Commissioners also recognized Jared Slezinger, a sixth grader from Gilbraltar and cadet in last year’s Clare Youth Police Academy, for his “heroic actions in saving the life of a fellow student who was choking.”
*Retiring Clare Police Officer Greg Rynearson was also honored for 25 years of service to the County and 14 years of service in the Police Department.
*The Commission, after a Public Hearing, approved a request from JD Metalworks, Inc. for a 12-year Industrial Facilities Exemption Certificate, a 50-percent abatement of taxes on real and personal property they acquired totaling $259,704.35.
*The board approved an amendment to the site lease with New Cingular Wireless (AT&T) for space on the water tower for an upgraded antenna system.
*In his report City Manager Hibl said Lapham’s have completed a preliminary design for the City’s new soccer complex with the intent to submit a Trust Fund Grant in April. Because the estimated cost is higher than the city can afford with Parks and Recreation millage funds and a grant, the project will be done in phases.